Fighting for the Future
By Miranda Flairgold
A Second Chance at Life
Changes in a Time of War
Fighting for the Future
Disclaimer I: JKR owns everything you recognize, I own everything else.
Disclaimer II (extended version): This series started off as Harry Potter fanfiction. It has since morphed to the point where it includes few Harry Potter characters. This series continues taking the magical world down a completely different path. The trilogy was begun in July 2005, and as such I had plenty of room to "play" with Rowling's world. I have done my best to keep this entire series as original as possible. This is to be the final part of a Trilogy beginning with A Second Chance at Life, continued in Changes in a Time of War, and culminating with this part. This fic will be the most AU of the lot.
Author's Note I: The main character, Rahkesh Asmodaeus (aka Harry Potter) will not be engaged in any sort of long-term romantic relationship. You may complain about what you think you see, where you dread I'm going, and about where you wish I would go. I will politely ignore these reviews or refer you back to this note.
Author's Note II: I will be rewriting bits of the two prequels as I go; no major changes just some extra stuff and spelling corrections.
Rating: PG-13 to R – uncomfortable topics, blood/guts/gore, war, death, murder, icky humor, language, infanticide, over-imaginative complete fiction.
I hope you have enjoyed the journey, please remember to review. Thank you for reading.
from the last chapter of Changes in a Time of War
All over the world sirens went off.
Claire's supervisor, an auror from South Africa, came running into the room. The sensor was going berserk, flashing bright enough to blind. Claire was reading off the coordinates into a recording unit.
Then the whole sensor network came alive. Warning sirens fired off and the entire bank of sensors burst into light.
Next the computers set off their sirens, flashing red lights indicating activity at six known portals. The magical detectors followed instantly with identical warnings. Then the computers abruptly went silent. The magical detectors did not, their sirens wailing through the monitoring station. The supervisor turned down the volume and checked the computers, their electronic motion detectors must have been fried.
Claire had already hit the attack signal, sending out an instant communication to every magical settlement on the planet, and every set of armed fighters they had. Next she hit a series of controls, first on a muggle keyboard and then on a magical one, sending the locations of the six activating portals out to everyone.
Claire's supervisor took over the second chair and began using the sensor array to triangulate as closely as possible where the demonic magic was coming from. Seconds later eight more technicians joined them at the other work stations around the room. They already had a plan in place which split the world into sectors, and each of them went to work putting in the commands to find where the magic was coming from in their sector.
Exactly six minutes later every armed services unit received the full set of coordinates, as accurate as possible, of every piece of demonic magic the sensors could pick up. Claire remembered at the last minute to remove Sharahak from the group, while her supervisor removed the laboratories where portals were being studied, those were already being guarded. A total of forty-seven locations remained.
"It's started." Claire whispered.
"Send everything to Stocklir's command post and to Verens evacuation center." Her supervisor snapped. Stocklir would have updates on who was available to fight where and her team would send deployment orders. Veren, a veela, was in charge of managing evacuations, local teams would be reporting in to her and she would be coordinating supplies and travel routes.
At Akren Rahkesh dressed quickly and methodically. He, like everyone else, had his clothing and weapons stored in the middle of his room, ready to be put on. The students had been divided into three rotating shifts, which would, theoretically, trade off fighting duties every seven hours. This way they would have fourteen hours between fights, if everything worked right.
Rahkesh's weapon set, like that of everyone else, was highly personalized. His staff, two swords, four knives, tasers, potions, a prototype of a muggle handgun that some creative witch had come up with that might work against demons, his wand, and armored clothing. Other students would be carrying whatever they were best with.
Rahkesh had two possible roles, both of them either solitary or working with a small team. One of them was attacking as a thunderbird or as a basilisk. The other was to work with a group to get to the portal and destroy it, or, alternatively, the demons working it. They would have to evaluate the situation as they arrived. Fortunately Rahkesh was completely healed, had enjoyed two days of rest, and was ready for a fight, in any form.
Rahkesh was with all of his friends and a collection of students from other years. They were assembled in front of the main entrance four minutes after the alarms went off. Professors Darkwind and Masamba were already there.
"Is everyone ready?" Masamba asked gently, as if they were not about to go to war. "Very well then." The tiger fae gave everyone a mental image of their destination, a lonely line of hills close to a hundred kilometers northeast of Edmonton, Canada. Darkwind sent portkeys flying to everyone. The students clipped the bands into place around their left wrists. They were word or thought activated. When he was sure everyone had what they needed Darkwind nodded to Masamba. Masamba turned back to the students. "We will assemble on site under the cover of the trees. Two auror teams, a werewolf pack, a fairy clan, a wolf fae pack, and the local centaurs are joining us. On three, one, two, three."
From under the thick branches of a dark green shrub Rahkesh scanned the grassy horizon. They had not identified a portal to the demon realm in this location. It was an unknown. Fortunately the coordinates generated by the network had been fairly precise. But he could not see anything at all suspicious. Not even a glow. This meant little because many previous portals had been underground in caves, but there was no sign of those either. The fae were searching at the moment.
He spelled his shoulder-length black hair back for the third time, and wondered if maybe the demon magic in the area might be interfering. There was demon magic around, hanging heavy over the land like a suffocating blanket. Daray, having a massive black alpha demon as his animagus form (or something like that), had started growling immediately upon arrival. The youngest son of the Ateres vampire clan was lying on his belly beside Rahkesh, peering through a pair of very special binoculars that one of his mercenary clan had created. Rahkesh noted that Daray's tanned skin was remaining vampire-smooth but his ears were looking like there were scales just under the skin, and his dark hair was taking on an almost glassy shine like that his black scales had in demon form.
As an alpha demon Daray reacted aggressively to unknown alpha demon magic. At home the alphas fought for status constantly. The demon whose body Daray had taken (accidentally) for his own animagus had been completely annihilated, but some small remnant of its instincts remained in its magical blood. Daray, being a very powerful young vampire, was always aggressive anyway. But Rahkesh knew his friend very well and the very tiny shifting motions of Daray's shoulders told him that the vampire really wanted to attack, fight and kill something.
They really ought to have Daray searching for hidden caves with portals. He was more likely to sense them. But Daray claimed the demon magic was thickest in the middle of the field just at the horizon. They had already searched there and no magical scan had returned any evidence of a cave below. And so they were watching the field and wondering what they had missed and how they could improve.
Matolo, a werewolf built not terribly unlike an ox, except just a bit better looking, crawled up beside them behind a high tuft of brown grass. He was the beta werewolf for one of Akren's packs. His alpha, Xayi, was off with the other half of the pack. Running down the line of shrubs behind Matolo was the half of the pack he was leading. The werewolf's shaggy brown hair flopped down over his forehead and hung around his head in a manner much like the slightly droopy grass. Bright hazel eyes flashed over to Rahkesh and Daray "anything?"
"Nothing." Daray sighed softly, his sparkling eyes were taking on a tiny bit of glow, like he was trying to keep them from changing into the red and yellow they tended to be in demon form.
"This does not make any sense." Rahkesh commented, "we know that all of the demon's plans were built around attacking population centers first. And here we are in way-the-hell-middle-of-nowhere-Canada. How do they plan to reach any population center without being attacked?"
"Could be a diversion." Matolo offered.
"No, not here." Daray said, "they planned for a quick fast strike at our population centers. Hit hard, fight it out where they must and take the losses that come with that. Kill as many as possible, take no prisoners but children. Then track down and capture the scattered groups of refugees and smaller villages."
"Exactly, they were going to just kill in the first attack. This is the first attack because diversion was never part of it. They know we know they're coming and so they expect a rough go of it. To send troops as a diversion weakens the initial attack. They're limited, they can only send so many at a time. They need everyone to go for the first assault." Rahkesh had thought this through many times in the past half hour.
"They could be gathering here before leaving, but then we'd track them and be better prepared. So that doesn't make sense. Their only option, really, is to send in their best to hold the portals in the cities until more can come through." Daray hadn't been convinced of this himself, but Rahkesh was sure that the demons were not coming in distant locations just to gather for an attack.
"I suppose they could come in remote places and bring everything they've got. And then get down to the fighting. Sure, we'll know where they are and what they've got, but remember they outnumber us at least five hundred to one and they've got legions of arch demons lined up. Maybe they're doing that," Rahkesh admitted, "but none of the plans we got from any of their minds showed that scenario."
"Those demons were sent here knowing they had little chance of living long and a high chance of being captured." Daray reminded him, "could be they were deliberately mis-informed."
"All of them?" Matolo asked a little dubiously.
"Silas's captives all confirmed everything we got from Sharahak, the lead demon sorcerer from Mexico, and the soul Sierra Ateres stole from their scouting team in London." Daray explained. "So unless all of them were kept in isolation for a very long time, the plan is as we know it."
"And, therefore, there being demon magic here still makes no sense." Rahkesh stated.
He wasn't the only one who thought the current situation didn't make sense. Ms. Stocklir – now Minister Stocklir of Switzerland – was asking similar questions of her own people. And in her case someone needed to find an answer yesterday.
The whole situation was beyond confusing. They had identified six portals, only two within actual cities, the ones in Beijing and Houston. All of the six known portals had been activated, and so too had forty-one other locations. And of these only two were anywhere near any sort of population center, Leningrad and Budapest. Prepared for an invasion of the cities with the largest magical populations Stocklir's forces were in the wrong places.
Magic fixed the location problems quickly enough and everyone was relocated in less than twenty minutes. This still didn't explain why the demons weren't following their own plan. Stocklir had split her tactics people into a dozen teams and sent them off to brainstorm in groups. The stocky old grandmother had shocked her team with her language many times already that day and there would be more to come.
At the suggestion of the alpha of the werewolves of Sydney Australia she had also placed small, mobile teams of extremely skilled fighters at every location with a significant magical population. Just in case this was a diversion. Those few were mostly individual fighters who were expertly trained and who worked best alone due to unique abilities. They could keep an eye on where the demons should be, while the larger forces waited at where the scanner network said the demons were. Or where they going to be, since they had yet to materialize.
"Adrian Carvol in Katmandu, Nepal." Josephine warned her boss just before one of the ten the hippocampus hair screens across the left wall lit up.
"Adrian?" Stocklir asked. Their sensor network had spotted demonic magic flaring in a fairly remote completely unpopulated sub alpine valley. As with all of the other locations, it made no sense.
"Got something." Adrian reported. He was a tall middle aged man with dark brown hair going silver at the temples and sharp blue eyes that missed nothing. Because this location had been noted first Stocklir had sent in a team of Akren-trained professionals. Adrian Carvol and his crew specialized in tracking international fugitives, of any species. Adrian himself was, apart from his impressive magical credentials, an expert tracker and wilderness survival expert and avid mountain climber who had spent years roaming around Nepal as a young man. "Unless the demons plan on impersonating wildflowers they haven't arrived yet."
"Get a look at this." The visual spun for a moment, everyone in the main control room leaned in close, then drew back as bright light flashed across the screen. The visual stabilized, showing an arched golden gateway, with a flaming tunnel inside. Trailing bits of fire slipped out, scorching a pale cliff face. The gold was glowing almost red from the heat.
One of Adrian's team approached the gateway, stopping about fifty meters away. The golden arch loomed over her.
"Five meters high." Adrian explained, "there's no heat coming out, though the flames sure are. I've got the rest of the team scattered around and hidden. Maze and I are getting all the magical readings the research team wanted."
"Keep away from the gate." Stocklir warned unnecessarily, "Put out a wave net around your location." A wave net was a fairly complex, if easily constructed, enchantment that rippled like a wave when activated. It was used primarily for simply knocking over anything that tried to walk on it.
"Already done boss. And an anti-summoning ward." Adrian reported. The anti-summoning ward would stop anyone from being sucked into the gateway. His team wore enchanted tattoos that had been keyed into the ward.
The door in the back of Stocklir's command center opened and a tall, pale, creamy sand and grey demon walked in, keeping his wings folded over his back to avoid harming anyone. "Sharahak have you seen anything like this?" The former vampire, now and permanently in a demon body, had lived in the demon realm for about a thousand years.
Sharahak rocked back onto his hind legs to stand upright from his more natural all-fours position, easily dwarfing the rest of the room. He leaned forward and gently tapped the screen with a claw to zoom in on the top of the arched gate.
"We've got some distant sounds coming out of the gate." Adrian warned, "sounds like a chant, but in growls."
"Sound-based transport." Sharahak identified it, "only used by the demon army. The sound waves cause an effect not unlike the rippling around oars on a boat. I don't know how it really works. It's one way, only works coming into this world."
"Anything else?" Stocklir asked.
"Yes, this particular portal must have been placed at this location a very long time ago, thousands of years ago. Maybe back during the battle for Atlantis. Like most of the portals we've found it isn't new. But unlike the rest it only works one way."
"Can we close it?"
"I doubt it, I certainly don't know how and unlike all the others, this one can't be activated with human sacrifices from this world." Sharahak said. "Though since it is sound based…perhaps a consultation with the Chachapoyaro. They know a bit about sound-based magics."
"General Mahlkinalgiviris is already on his way over." Stocklir said. "By the way, how is that name shortened?" The Chachapoyaro had long and complex names that they almost always shortened to easy nicknames.
"Mahl usually." Sharahak said absently. "Looking at this portal I don't think there is any way to activate it from this world. The usual human sacrifices and death magic method probably won't work at all."
"We could give it a try." Master Necromancer Nicholas Walcressen of the White Order offered. A little too eagerly. As the head of the White Order he and his necromancers dealt with magic produced from living sacrifices. The Black Order utilized only their own personal magic. Walcressen, being a White Necromancer, had no problem at all with killing people to gather the magic of their deaths, or torturing them for the magic that provided. Stocklir didn't much like the Necromancers of the White Order, few did, they didn't even like each other, but at the moment all of Earth was allied against the demons.
"No thank you Nicholas." Stocklir declined gently. She had already been talked into allowing the White Order to collect some muggle and a few magical criminals to utilize as sacrifices. As a strong advocate for the basic rights of every sentient species it had left her feeling ill, but it was necessary. All chosen had been criminals, the muggles sentenced to death and the magical people either the same or near it. They would have no place in their new world for them anyway, and if the demons got them it would just help them grow stronger. Fortunately most of the sacrifices the White Order wanted were being supplied by the magical vampires, who were finishing up exterminating all of their non-magical fanged brethren anyway.
"I don't think that will be necessary here. Actually it would be useless. There's no way to connect magically from this world to that portal." Sharahak said. Despite being a vampire and living in the demon realm he didn't like Walcressen either.
"However the portal in Hungary can be operated from this realm." Necromancer Norovosi Ateres of the White Order said from the doorway. They had a dozen separate rooms set up to keep track of everything. Norovosi and his crew were working part of Europe. Stocklir was running the command center, and therefore trying to organize everything based on the reports from each group.
"Then close it down." Stocklir ordered, putting the thought of the dozen or so people who were going to die horribly to make that happen out of her mind. That portal was one of the ones near a very large magical community. Walcressen's twisted smile made a few people wince as he followed the vampire out of the room.
"I suppose it is a good thing we have so many muggle vampires that need to be gotten rid of." Julius Nandan commented as the door shut. The tall thin vampire with scraggly blond hair flying everywhere was the heir of the Master of Paris, and well experienced at coordinating military units from several recent wars with other vampires intent on taking France from its current vampiric rulers.
"We've got something happening in western Canada." Armel Vbramski called from his own set of hippocampus screens. He flicked a few controls and another of the larger panels burst into light. It was early evening there and Armel rotated the view as much as he could to avoid the sun. This was not much, given that the other screen was set up a fair way back from the site and was two dimensional, they were able to see the grassy field, but the team appeared well hidden.
"Master Masamba?" Stocklir asked. The tiger fae with his unusual head covered in silvery striped fur and shining cat eyes appeared.
"We have not been able to locate the portal but the magic here is thick enough to choke on. We've had several minor earthquakes just now and the ground is beginning to heat."
"If so we haven't found any evidence of one."
Stocklir thought this over. The team Masamba was running had about a dozen Akren students on it, including both Daray Ateres the demon animagus, and Rahkesh Asmodaeus their thunderbird and basilisk. They were backed by one of the world's strongest werewolf packs, wolf fae, eagle fae, sixty vampires, twenty Akren alumni, and an auror team. She had hoped to send them another auror team, but they had been needed in New Mexico. Whatever was happening, the team in place was probably capable of doing a good bit of damage.
"Do you need more help?"
"A goblin or two would be nice, but no, I think our force is adequate." Masamba said. "I'm calling in to tell you that the location here that has the strongest demon magic is not the area of ground that is heating up. Wherever they're doing whatever they're doing, the center of the wards where the most magic is coming from is located half a kilometer west of it. I don't know if it's intentional but if it is it's a damn clever tactic. We've been keeping and eye on the area with the most magic, if the wolf fae hadn't been roaming around and happening to feel the warming ground and gotten suspicious we wouldn't have noticed."
"I'll pass the note along." Stocklir said, nodding to a few of her team to start sending out alerts to the others. "We have yet to see a demon even though we have at least one open portal."
"They'll be here." Masamba said.
Waiting was boring. Waiting was all he'd done for two months. Waiting and walking a three-quarter kilometer loop around a large portal to the demon realm. Red hated waiting. He'd walked that loop every day, all day, for two months. He'd stopped counting loops when he passed a thousand, it was just too depressing. Like every vampire he could potentially exist forever, theoretically. In spite of this the past two months had been dull enough to make even a vampire regret being semi-immortal; what if he was stuck here doing this forever? That was the depression and boredom talking. Red knew perfectly well that he was to be transferred back to one of his Master's fortresses at the three month mark. To prevent insanity.
On the other hand he had had the opportunity to read an awful lot of books when he wasn't on duty. He was training to a sharper fighting edge than he'd ever been, he'd started learning a new type of magic just to find something to do, and he'd taught himself to make stone furniture. Because he was bored.
It's wasn't a very big island, to sail around the whole pile of rocks was barely three kilometers. And who in their right mind would want to do that when the sea was cold enough to make the dead cry and the waves as tall as an elephant and the wind wild enough to make even vampire start hallucinating after a month stuck in it? Of Red's team of twenty half a dozen had gotten bored enough to actually take up sailing. Until a great white shark made its presence known by overturning one of the sailboats Red's second in command had built. That was the only exciting thing that had happened and Red was sick and tired of having nothing productive to do. There weren't even any trees on the island. The entire thing was composed of moss, lichens, a few hardy grasses and low shrubs and sharp rocks jutting out everywhere just waiting to break an unwary ankle. There had been two of those, incidents which Red had not reported to his Master out of embarrassment. Vampires weren't supposed to break ankles by stumbling, but even the best trained senses could get hypnotized walking the same damn trail a few thousand times.
Any moment now this portal was going to activate, and then he'd have something to do. Red was looking forward to the demon's invasion of Earth. He and his companions agreed that it was going to be spectacular. They weren't terribly worried for their own safety even though they knew that some of them were probably going to die. They had a better chance at survival than most and were perfectly capable of looking after themselves. And they had reason to be excited; this portal was one likely to be transporting arch demons. Arch demons were giant demons who the other demons thought to be almost indestructible. When Tristan Namach had requested that containing and killing anything that came through this portal as one of his tasks everyone else had been perfectly happy to let him have it. Red and his companions were looking forward to this invasion because they couldn't wait to help their Master crush the demon's best weapon.
They all agreed that no army of arch demons was going to ever be any serious threat to their Master, and they were looking forward to proving their own worth by jointly killing as many arch demons as possible. Red personally wanted to kill an arch demon on his own, which he knew was overly ambitious, but what an alluring challenge. Killing an arch demon on his own while leading his team into battle was something that he'd be forever able to hold over his creator, the fact that his creator thought him dead didn't matter. Red's creator was a singularly dull vampire who'd cut off all ties with Red a decade after creating him because Red had wanted to become a doctor, a potions master, and an assassin, in that order, instead of being a mercenary. Red had gone his own way and had been recruiting by none other than Tristan Namach at the young age of two hundred. Red had cheerfully given Tristan his soul and lived only to serve him, a decision he'd never regretted until now. Two damn months and he hadn't even seen a damn bird on this nasty little island. There weren't even any bugs! After the shark had left there hadn't been any living things in the sea, not even seaweed…though that should probably tell him something about the demon magic here. Red was losing his mind. If the demons didn't attack soon he was going to start talking to the grass. The grass, of course, was all the same color, the same color as the lichens, the moss, and the shrubs. Not a hint of variation. What kind of island didn't have flowers? Two months, one more to go. Why couldn't it snow or something? Or even rain. Heck rain would be down right fascinating here.
There were other portals his Master was watching. Tristan had awakened his entire army months earlier to get them training. Most of the time the vampires under his command existed without bodies; they left their bodies at one of his fortresses and did their Master's bidding as wraiths. Supposedly Tristan had full control of his servants in either wraith or in their natural form and he could utilize their bodies much like robots while their mind and souls were elsewhere. No one had ever noticed this happen, but everyone was sure it did. They didn't care. Giving up all freedom was part of joining Tristan's secretive forces. But this was the first time they had all been in a natural vampire form at once. And all of them were preparing for battle. At any given time a full third of them were usually working on training new skills. Tristan even sent his servants to muggle universities so that he would have experts in everything nonmagical and magical. He rotated his servants between assignments, but usually allowed them to pursue their own interests, so long as they left no record of their existence anywhere. He kept track of every single one of them, the magic that bound them to him allowing him to read their minds at will. Red was certain his Master knew perfectly well just how dull this dot at the end of the earth was.
Red shook his blond hair out of his blue eyes and glared at the worn trail on the dusty gray earth and rock. Perhaps this was some sort of test. Though he led a team of twenty Red was a fairly low ranked vampire, a well educated one to be sure, but nothing terribly special. Perhaps if he'd been a little more senior he would have been assigned to one of the other portals or to one of the fortresses. The vampires assigned to the two most dangerous portals, the one not twenty miles outside of Beijing, and the portal in Houston, both of which were capable of bringing through arch demons, were vampires nearly two thousand years old who had served Tristan for virtually their entire existence. They were each commanding one hundred vampires while the majority of the army was training at their Master's fortresses.
This portal was supposed to be capable of bringing in arch demons. But Sharahak didn't think it was very strong, so maybe only a few would make it through. Red was just the watchman, there was a whole regiment waiting for his signal that the portal had been activated. Perhaps this was just a test of endurance, to see how long they could stay focused and sane in such a location. As much as Red trusted his Master completely and was delighted to serve him in anything, he wondered if maybe Tristan had overestimated a vampire's capacity to endure. Two of his team were starting to make Red worry for their mental stability. Maybe he'd send them out sailing again. Give them something even nastier to focus on.
The dull flat gray sky opened up a little and a tiny bit of sunlight slipped through. Red stopped to stare at it. Withstanding sunlight was something he had learned very young. He'd been turned into a vampire at thirty and by forty five had been capable of spending several days at a time in full sunlight. He was now just past his third century and a little sun didn't bother him at all. It was almost welcome, though after so long without it it made his eyes ache for a moment. The sky had been a flat boring gray for a month and half without change. They hadn't even been able to see the full moon. It occurred to him that he must be getting truly desperate when a ray of sunlight made him happy because it was something different.
The sun vanished again and Red turned for the base camp. Maybe Sandy had gotten the television working. They had brought all sorts of electronic equipment, plus a TV for entertainment, but everything had died more or less upon arrival. It must be the demon's magic doing it. All the more reason to want them dead. The last time Red had gone two months without watching a good rugby match was when he'd been an infant.
The ground lurched sideways and Red stumbled. Smoke blasted out of the center of the island followed by red flames and intense heat. Red apparated to the base camp instantly, hearing magical sirens screeching their alarm signal. Finally. He'd almost been ready to start sending invitations.
Down in the tall grass Rahkesh felt the ground twitch.
One of the local werewolves growled softly. "I can smell them now". Daray sniffed and nodded sharply, his eyes flashing a bit red around the irises. Rahkesh glanced towards where they now thought the demons would attack from. There would probably be alpha demons leading them. He leaned over and tapped Daray on the shoulder.
"If you need to transform let me know, I'll block everyone's line of sight."
"Thanks. I think I can handle it once the fight starts. Strangely it's much easier then…or maybe not, the focus on attacking makes the demons side just slide away."
"Well there isn't much of it left, just some tattered bits of instinct." Rahkesh said. "Does Sharahak have the same problem?"
"No. He just got the demon's whole body. I got an animagus and some extra instincts. I think I got the better deal." Daray grinned slyly. "The ladies who aren't reptiles themselves still find me attractive."
Rahkesh laughed, trust a vampire to think about the important things in life first. "Demons are rather like Earth reptiles aren't they?"
"Unlike some reptiles, snakey, demons have limbs."
The ground trembled again. The groaning and snapping of rock below them sounded ominous and Rahkesh had to resist the urge to bolt before something caved in. Another lurch, this time it actually moved them sideways.
"I think we should back off a bit. It feels like a fairly big piece of the ground is going to go." Matolo said. The werewolf on their other side was already signaling the rest of his pack to back off a ways. Cautiously the group began to move away from the area of ground that was now so hot little tendrils of steam were rising off of it.
They had only gone a few paces when Daray spun, knife and wand springing into his hands and a hair-raising growl rising up from his chest.
The earth split open. Flames engulfed an area of land the size of a quidditch pitch and a gaping wound opened up splitting the field in half. The blast of heat and flames sent everyone diving for cover.
Spiraling flames leaped from the torn earth and from within each a demon dropped out, wings outstretched, diving for the people on the ground. At the edges of the ripped bedrock more demons appeared, these ones without wings, clawing their way out of the portal, massive scimitar-like blades in hand.
The werewolves bunched up into their teams of six and began firing off spells, knocking demons back down into the portal. Working with one such group Rahkesh and Daray went after the demons plummeting out of the air, hurling spells to snap their wings.
Brilliant gold streams of light flew in low over the grass, curling up under the demons now running out of the portal. Blasts of gold sparks erupted where the spells hit and demons went down screaming, blood pouring from their ruined guts. Rahkesh side stepped around one of the small golden spells and saw it looked just like an eagle. They must be one of the eagle fae's tricks.
A massive winged gray demon hit the ground beside him. Rahkesh stepped forward and slammed a thin-bladed knife straight into its left eyeball. He followed it up with a disintegration curse to the throat. The demon's fire and venom washed harmlessly off his armored clothing. Rahkesh side stepped as the demon fell forward, transfigured his knife into an axe, and spun, brining the weapon down across the back of the demon's neck.
The dried out field was burning out of control. The edge of the fire was moving fast towards the distant hills. Around them thick choking smoke and waist-high flames went whipping across the earth. Rahkesh cast a version of the bubble-head charm, giving himself an invisible bubble around his head to keep the smoke out of his eyes.
Beside him Matolo broke into a run and tackled a charging demon. Flipping the massive animal Matolo snapped a long string around its neck. He leaped back and snapped his fingers. The demon's head was ripped off its body as the threadmagic ignited. Rahkesh dodge the flying head and hurled a skinning spell at another demon going for Matolo's back. As it turned and breathed fire to burn the spell out of the air Daray hit it from the opposite side. Knocking the demon flat he shot it through the ear with one of the newly built enchanted bullets.
As the demon went limp purple fire streaked down from above and Rahkesh cast a shield around his group. The demons attacking now were using magic. From above a line of demons dropped out of the air. Rahkesh handed off the shield spell to Matolo. Bringing his wand up he sent off a dozen melting spells, deliberately making them loose and brightly colored. The flaring magic and light blocked out the demon's vision even though the spells bounced harmlessly off their thick scales.
Under the cover of the flashing spells the group split into twos and dove out of the way. The demons dropped down into empty air and right into the space Rahkesh's group had previously occupied. Disoriented and temporarily blinded and demons paused as they found bare ground where their opponents had been. Just as they hit the ground the whole team began casting spells.
Banishing the blood and demon flesh that had splattered across his face Rahkesh turned and found the werewolves beside him, looking past him. Rahkesh spun on one foot to look back at where the portal was.
The ground was covered with demons, smaller than Daray or Sharahak, no wings, hundreds of them. They were clawing their way up out of the portal and charging into the fight screaming. A spinning cloud of flaming columns flashed and danced above the portal, spitting out winged demons to attack from above. Too many Rahkesh thought, there's too many. What kind of portal was this that could bring a thousand through at a time?
"Anyone good with a shield?" Rahkesh barked over the werewolves. A few hands went up. "Get in the center then. Four of you watch the sky, the other four go over us. Daray?"
"Behind you." Daray growled as the werewolves grouped up around them. "Ahmad's little knife-cloud trick?"
"Yep." Rahkesh said, settling into a bit of crouch so the werewolves could get over him. They were firing off curses at the demons nearest to them. Daray turned to face the opposite way and pulled out both his usual wand and the spare he carried. "Now."
The werewolves shield went up and Daray and Rahkesh began to spin, back to back, wands flinging out a continuous stream of knives. Traveling so fast they blurred the knives formed a thick solid mass around the group and then exploded outwards.
"Split!" Rahkesh called, together their little group was too good a target, and he could see demon sorcerers fighting with the fae in the distance.
The wave of knives traveled too fast for the demons to avoid it, most of them didn't even see them coming. Rahkesh and Daray had conjured thousands of them in only a few seconds and by blasting them outwards at once had created a gap in the battle as the demons either died or had to pause to remove the blades.
Rahkesh hit the ground behind the flaming remains of a tall bush. A moment later Daray was beside him. A charging demon breathed fire at them and swung a saber-like blade. Rahkesh ducked and rolled, feeling a spiked tail slam into his side and a rib crack. He rolled and drove a knife up under the spines on the demon's neck while clamping a hand over its eyes and forcing a crushing curse through its head. Beside him Daray dropped another dead demon to the ground, licking his lips. Blood ran from a bite on the side of the demon's jaw while the gaping smoking hole through its spine sputtered and turned to ash.
"Their sorcerers are up to something." The vampire commented, pointing to the demons circling over head. "We probably shouldn't give them a chance to get it done, whatever it is." He raised an eyebrow at Rahkesh. "How well can you sense the team signal?" All of the Earthlings had a magical signal on them, much like the Akren one but different, which allowed them some chance of avoiding hurting each other in the crazed confusion of battle.
"Well enough. How are your flying skills?"
"On a broom? Adequate."
"All of our group can fly. Let's get them airborne. I'll break some room." Rahkesh hissed, firing a string of curses at the demons, who were charging in over the bodies of the dead.
"Done. Have a nice flight." Daray said and rolled away downhill. Rahkesh unwrapped Sygra from his neck and set her down.
Can I eat them?
I will be most upset if you electrocute me.
I will not do so. Rahkesh assured her as he took a running start towards a large rock. Leaping off his right leg with a magical push he went high over the demon's heads.
The thunderbird exploded into existence across the sky with a wild crashing of thunder and blaze of sparkling lightning bursts. Rahkesh leaned back and beat his wings hard, the down draft aimed at the demons coming out of the portal. Below him demons went crashing over backwards, falling back into their realm. The Earth fighters used the distraction to regroup and remove any injured to a safer location
As always turning into a thunderbird sent a wave of raw adrenaline and ecstasy through him, as though the whole world was his and nothing could possibly harm him. It felt as though he had transcended to another state of being, perfection in magic and the wild fire of the storm dancing in his veins. It felt amazing, the air under his wings and the power around him made him feel as though he had every bit of magic in the world flowing through him. Rahkesh concentrated and pulled his thoughts back, as much as he'd like nothing more than to fly forever, lashing the heavens with his lighting, he did have things to do.
Gaining some height Rahkesh wheeled around and caught sight of the demon sorcerers. They were mostly alpha demons like Daray, adults, and spreading flashing bits of red magic everywhere off their wings and claws.
Coming down from above Rahkesh sensed the demonic magic, blocked out Daray as being on his side, and attacked. Shrieking lightning bolts snapped from the clouds surrounding him, lancing into the demon's magic and breaking it apart. The sparkling red mass snapped and vanished. Rahkesh spun on a wingtip and focused on the demons themselves.
The sorcerers responded with blinding purple fire as the air rumbled with thunder and lightning flashed again. The giant thunderbird was in its non-solid state and Rahkesh ignored the attacking demons, the winds wrapped around him buffeting them out of his way.
Across the sky Rahkesh's storm was growing; black clouds growing and blocking out the setting sun. Soon the billowing black clouds stretched to every horizon and the earth was darkened below. Through the darkness the thunderbird's form appeared against the clouds, lit by a dazzling array of lightning as he sent lightning bolts crashing into the demon sorcerers.
Beside Rahkesh a demon screamed as his lightning bolts tore its wings to shreds and sent it plummeting to earth. Below the auror team pounced and finished it off. Rahkesh sent lightning bolts rippling off after three demon sorcerers and got a satisfying screech as his aim proved true and their vulnerable eyes blew apart.
Demonic magic shot through his feathers close to his head and Rahkesh ducked. Some of them had found away to get to him even in his non-corporeal form. Swinging around with amazing agility for so large a bird Rahkesh turned the fury of his storm on the new set of attackers. Below him the portal continued to spew out demons on the land and the flaming tendrils creeping out of the portal released demons into the air.
Rahkesh let off a rippling blast of lightning all around him and dove. Lightning zapped down and wrapped around the flames that were releasing the winged demons. Catching the whole tendril Rahkesh spun above it, tying his lightning into a spiral. With a heavy beat of his wings the spiraling lightning bolts lashed inwards to form one single massive bolt blazing downwards through the portal.
The demons coming through that piece of flame exploded as they materialized. Rahkesh flew upwards again and turned to find another piece of the portal.
Yellow magic hit his side and Rahkesh had to roll over completely as pain shot through him. More yellow magic and Rahkesh followed it back to its origin. Blue sparks, red flashes and Rahkesh felt the flesh inside his left leg shred as though under a cheese grater. Screaming as much in pain as in rage Rahkesh sought out his attackers. Waves of demons flying in formation dropped out of the sky, their wings glowing and magic flashing off their claws. Rahkesh switched direction again and went straight for them.
The air began to vibrate with continuous thunder as Rahkesh sent his magic into the storm and then pulled the lightning out of it. The air sizzled and the stench of ozone grew around Rahkesh's body. Rahkesh folded in his wings and dove for the first rank of demon sorcerers attacking him. Waiting until he could see individuals Rahkesh slammed his wings down to rise over them and let loose.
Half the first wave of demons was knocked out of the air instantly by the thunderbird's lightning attack. Rahkesh flew low over them, turning to come back for a second strike. Focusing on their magic he pulled lightning out of the storm in a constant stream of electricity from every direction. Closing his wings he dropped down past the demons and now the lightning came from the storm above and the thunderbird below. Spread his wings Rahkesh risked becoming fully solid.
The lightning bolts began to fly back and forth form the thunderbird to the storm. Like ping pong balls the lightning bolts shot up and down, Rahkesh focusing them onto the tiny bits of magic that marked the demon sorcerers. Demons blew apart and soon blood and limbs were raining down onto Rahkesh's back. The blood caught fire and began to burn. The sorcerers were turning and diving at him now. Rahkesh rose with a few beats of his wings and went to meet them. The demons saw him coming and began a new spell, a green and orange one that danced through the air between them, avoiding the flying lightning.
Thunderbird and demons collided above the battle field with a shockwave that flattened everything on the ground. Trees were blown apart and the fighting armies below were knocked flat beneath roaring thunder and screaming lightning. The demons magic liquefied the earth and set it flaming. Between the blue flames eating the ground the demons and Earthlings got back on their feet and looked up.
Up above Rahkesh was fighting the green and orange magic biting into his flesh and burning his feathers. His own attacks were taking the sorcerers down under brilliant displays of lightning. From within the storm clouds behind the demons silver fire was forming. Seeing it Rahkesh began to wing back and forth in a swaying motion, lashing the air with lightning. The demon's magic hurt and wrapped around him almost tight enough to strangle, but he kept moving. Burning pain in his right leg near the knee and again at the thigh made him spin and dodge. The demons attacked again and this time Rahkesh arched his back and sent lightning rolling over himself as pain lanced up from the center of his back. Finding the cluster of sorcerers he focused in on them. The demons were forced to retreat, right into the silvery net.
Rahkesh ducked under the mass of writhing death magic and spun away from the demon's exploding burning remains. Behind him the fighters on their brooms were finishing off the demons who had survived the attack. But more were coming. Looking down Rahkesh saw that there were many more. Thousands more. And the portal continued to flame. He could do something about that.
Their forces on the ground were getting pushed back by the demons. The Earthlings might be superior fighters to these unwinged demons but sheer numbers were winning out. Rahkesh wheeled around and went for the portal itself. Flying in low he unleashed a storm of lightning bolts into the gaping flaming wound in the earth. Inside he attached the lightning bolts to the walls of the portal and began to wind them together.
More demons were flying out of the sky, hundreds more. Rahkesh ignored them. Above him the fighters spun on their brooms and went into another attack. While they kept the flying demons off him Rahkesh spun his lightning bolts together until a net of electrical energy covered the portal. Inside demons were trying to get out, and falling back into the demon realm as the net blasted them off of it. Rahkesh concentrated on the energy of the portal and began to pull at it. Bringing the demonic energy around his electrical net to it would be powered off of the demons own magic.
Daray appeared beside him on a broom, bits of demon flesh dripping off the magical sword in his left hand. He drove the sword through the wings of a demon attacking them, then countered its magical attacks. Rahkesh dodged the flying shrapnel and the demon's poisonous spells, then dropped back beside Daray as the demon plummeted to the ground, dead. These sorcerers were, for the most part, not so powerful as the one that had led the attack in Mexico. Rahkesh carefully sent Daray a thought of what he was trying to do. Ducking under his wings Daray dove for the portal, drawing a knife as he flew low over the snapping parking net. Rahkesh reached up into the thundering storm above him and began to spin lighting bolts into a spiral.
The demon sorcerers dodged out of the way as a rippling tornado of lightning descended from the sky. Rahkesh guided it right to the center of the portal. Down below, looking very small against the size of the towering flames, Daray was zipping back and forth, drawing demon magic into the net.
Done Rahkesh caught the thought from the vampire and finished the connection, bringing both the energy of the storm and the demonic magic into his net. At once it began to splinter and fracture. Pieces shifted and new smaller nets formed, growing outwards in every direction until the top thirty meters of so or the portal was filled with raw electrical and demonic energy.
Jumping through the portal in their realm the demons had no control over their movement and were sent smashing helplessly into the net. Unable to prepare or do anything to defend themselves they were torn apart by the electrical discharge that erupted everywhere they hit.
Now that no new demons were coming through Daray went to rejoin the fighters in the air, attacking the demon sorcerers, ripping the wings off of one and pulling the guts out of another. The aerial battle was filling the sky with a brilliant array of color, bright enough to fully illuminate the battle on the ground in spite of it being night time. Rahkesh turned his attention to the ground battle; his frenzied storm magic was not terribly safe or useful when trying to work with a large team riding brooms. He tended to cause all sorts of air movements without meaning too, making it almost impossible to fly well.
Leaving the sorcerers to the hundred or so Earthlings riding brooms or flying without them Rahkesh began picking out groups of demons on the ground and electrocuting them all. Below and to his left he noticed a large winged creature diving and snapping at the demons that were trying to run around the outside of the battle, to get around behind the Earthlings. Dropping down low Rahkesh winged in over Sygra's head and sent lightning in a wave across the ground into a block of demons. Sygra appeared beside him, batting a demon out of the way with her wings and snapping the head off a second. She didn't often get to fight in her wyvern form, and was enjoying herself immensely in spite of the bloody gashes down her sleek black and sliver hide.
With the eagle fae joining the aerial battle and Sygra backing up the aurors Rahkesh turned away and went back to hovering near the portal, killing any demon that got too close. From inside he could feel demonic magic ripping apart his electrical net. But he could also feel increased heat and see the portal walls dripping. Not long now. Even the strongest portal could only bring through so many before it was destroyed.
And now Rahkesh found himself stuck. He could let the net go and let the demons through, which would result in the portal being destroyed sooner. Or he could hold the net knowing that it would eventually be broken and the demons would continue the invasion. Searching around the battle Rahkesh found each of the Akren signals and went through them, seeking Masamba. Finding the tiger fae's mind Rahkesh presented the situation quickly in a burst of thought. Masamba considered the options for a moment, and then pointed out that if he could hold the net until most of the demons already in their world had been dealt with he could then let the demons in a few at a time, for an easier kill. Professor Ahmad, joining their telepathic discussion, pointed out that the demons were more likely to stop the attack and conserve whatever the portal had left for future use. This would mean that they would have to keep a permanent guard on the portal.
Better to burn it out now then let them keep it and however many it can send through as a distraction for us. Masamba agreed. Let it go.
Rahkesh dropped his net and winged higher, Sygra following him. They could at least go for the alpha demons as they dropped out of the flames and hit them before they could group for an attack.
Sharahak ground his teeth and felt the sorcerer go limp in his jaws, its' spine severed. He dropped the body and stepped over it, wincing as the movement pulled at the deep wounds across his ripped wings and shoulders. Next to him two armored vampires burned another demon to a pile of ash. Sharahak glanced around, but found no immediate threat. Every demon in sight was dead or in the violent process of becoming so.
Fire and magic raced across the sky off to his left and Sharahak went in that direction at a run. The ground was shaking and he kept tripping up. Long cracks spread through the earth and the thick waves of smoke made it difficult to breathe. Cresting a low rise Sharahak paused and sat down, taking in the scene below him.
Black scorched earth, glowing embers and red melted earth stretched from horizon to horizon. The world was coated in smoke and awash in flames. Underfoot the ground was superheated and rock was melting in some places. The whole region probably looked like the apocalypse had come. The last two arch demons were fighting their way out of a massive pile of yellow/white tendrils…magical chains. A few meters away a massive Ice Dragon was drinking the blood of one of their companions. The ground had been burned down to bedrock, and that had melted. Arch demon remains were strewn everywhere, ripped to pieces.
Sharahak spotted a pile of solid rock and gingerly ventured through the wrecked corpses. Arch demons were one of the few types that he had not truly had an opportunity to look at up close, only from very far away. They were huge, larger than elephants, and really just looked like giant beta demons with a few additions; odd twisting wings, more horns, longer front limbs than hind and a tendency to walk on their back legs balanced by their enormous tails. Except not so elegant, more like the parts didn't quite all fit right, no grace to them, just dull flat scales and patchwork brown, gray, and red coloring. But they were big. Sharahak climbed up onto the rock pile to watch and found himself beside a severed head that had been sliced in half. The dead eye was as large as his head was.
The arch demons massive bodies were very close to those of a beta demon, but bulky without the sleek cat-like grace of the betas and alphas. The skin along their sides looked like maybe they had once been able to glide, but had evolved away from that ability. Their odd wings appeared almost deformed and Sharahak doubted they could fly for any lengths of time. Even when they tried to fly Tristan and his warriors had a very clear advantage in the air; the vampires could all fly without brooms and were so agile that the arch demons had failed to harm even one of them. And so the arch demons had learned quickly that a battle on the ground with magical shields above was probably their best method. Shields could be easily anchored to their wings without hindering spells cast from their claws and weapons.
Sharahak watched while the dragon in the distance shook the dying arch demon like a rag doll, its teeth caught in between the demon's vertebrae. The big white dragon twisted its neck around and ground its teeth in, sending more blood flowing from the demons' ruined throat. The ice dragon snorted fire and tilted its head to drink the blood. Tristan wasn't in any hurry to kill. The worst of the battle was long over and he had only two more arch demons left to deal with, and they had not yet escaped the magic he had them snared in.
Tristan's sleek, glossy, ice-white hide was covered in deep bloody slashes, scorch marks and magical blast wounds. Jagged weeping bite marks from the arch demons powerful jaws had gouged holes almost all the way through his right hind leg. Claw marks dragged all over his gleaming scales and his wings bore gaping wounds. The sharp edges of his scales were shattered, his tail spikes broken and fractured. Black soot and black burned and melted scales dripped down his left side from the middle of his back, across his spine, down across his shoulder and down his left front leg.
Tristan had taken the worst of the fighting for himself; there had been nearly a hundred arch demons and he had insisted on having two thirds of them. His warriors had killed the other third of the arch demons but Tristan had taken the rest on his own. Perhaps as a personal test, perhaps he'd just been in a mood for a fight. The arch demons had proven to be some very serious opponents both magically and physically, and Tristan, though clearly victorious, had taken a lot of gruesome injuries. As Sharahak watched the bloody ruin of his once-white hide was slowly healing, one by one the tears and gaps closing over into pink scars and then starting to fade, leaving dull white leathery skin coated in rippling white scars. The scales would grow back no doubt, but that would take a several hours.
The battle had utterly destroyed the land as far as the eye could see. Sharahak had flown above the fight during the worst of the battle and guessed the devastation as at least forty square kilometers, possibly more. The local magical beings were handling the muggles and illusions and clean up. Sharahak did not envy them that job. Apart from the ruined earth the magic had been so intense that it would not have surprised Sharahak if it had been visible from space. The sorcerers here had been no amateurs. Neither had the arch demons. They and Tristan had sent fire and magic high enough to impact the upper most layer of clouds. It had been the single most amazing fight Sharahak had ever witnessed, but he was glad it was over. His own injuries hurt terribly, though none were very serious, and he was exhausted.
Tristan lifted his head from the throat of the arch demon as it died. Sharahak sent a brief magical signal and waved one tattered wing. Tristan tilted his head to the side in acknowledgement, and turned around to face the two last arch demons. Sharahak heard noise behind him and looked back to see a dozen vampires teleporting in. Their leader, a vampire with wild blond hair going in every direction, took everything in and shrugged to himself. He walked over to Sharahak's pile of rocks and looked up at the demon for a moment.
"This seat taken?" he asked gesturing to a flat rock. Sharahak shook his head and the vampire sat down with a huff. His warriors followed a few moments later.
"My name's Red. We're from the island portal. Finished the last of them and wondered what was going on over here. Mostly we just wanted to get off that rock. It wasn't a nice place before the demons arrived, but now in addition to being the single most boring location on earth it also smells like a slaughterhouse. And not in a good way. Have you ever noticed how demon innards stink?"
"No not really." Sharahak said, watching as Tristan fought the last two arch demons in an explosion of fire, magic, and roaring fury. He had to hand it to them – the arch demons could fight damn well and they did their best, but they were no match for the speed and fury of the dragon. The battle shook the earth and threw fire and magic across the sky as though to scorch the clouds. Finally the two fell in a writhing mass of flames and magic. Tristan magically skinned the two arch demons, then blew their brains out with an explosive spell of some sort.
Sharahak looked over beside him, seeing Red had been watching the fight with a look of absolute delight and awe. As Tristan pulled the skins off the ground Red looked around to Sharahak.
"They really do smell awful when they get blown apart. Completely ruined the island…I mean, it never had any particular attractiveness to begin with, being a lump of rocks that were all exactly the same and plants that all looked like."
"Hmm." Sharahak had never visited the portal on the island that Tristan had asked for.
"It didn't even have any cool bugs to atone for the dreariness. Nasty winds, gray sky, no stars, no sun, freezing cold water, six plant species, total, not even any birds. It was not a nice place, but the smell…well lets just say that the stench doesn't make it any more endearing." The vampire continued. "I tell you, if I never set foot on that island for the next hundred years it still won't be long enough. The cells in Tristan's basement back at his old place in Rome haven't got any color at all, but I'm sure next to that island the rock texture in those cells alone is enough to seem fascinating."
"Huh." Now Sharahak definitely didn't want to visit this island.
"Nice killing, that." The vampire beside him said, nodding to Tristan neatly slicing up a still-moaning demon. "Funny, the arch demons we got all had magical armor."
"These did too." Sharahak explained, "Tristan took a half hour figuring out how to melt it." He pointed with his tail to a mass of metal lying on the ground. It was twitching. "After he wrapped that one up in its own armor the others took theirs off quick."
"Huh, wrapped up like a nice little present. Don't spiders do that?"
"I suppose." Sharahak said after a moment's thought.
"Neat. These arch demons are really something else. We only had twelve, took us two hours to kill them. Eight of us dead too. Well there were sixty alpha demons, two hundred betas and eight hundred of those skinny little wingless things with the bad breath and venom-spitting tongues." Red took off his boot and turned it over to pour the blood out. "Damn things bleed like stuck pigs, gets all over you and runs down into your boots."
Sharahak eyed the chatty vampire for a moment. He had a gash right across the top of his head, front to back, blue demon poison plastered and dried across both legs, yellow and orange powder on his right shoulder from disintegrated melted scales, and mushy green stuff all down his left side, demon magical acid that some beta demons were good at producing. His team was likewise colored with the remains of their battle, and one of them was meticulously cleaning the flesh off of a demon skull. Sharahak shook his head, looking back at the dying arch demons, wondering where on earth Tristan found these vampires.
Tristan left the skins stretched across the ground to dry and walked over to Sharahak. His other vampires were coming down the hill and clustering around a pile of rocks. There was no sign of fighting up over the hill and the portal was dead, melted into poisonous gold. Their battle was over. A sharp spike of magic and a handful of vampires appeared beside him.
"Keeping the skins?" Sharahak asked.
"One never knows where they might be useful." Tristan replied. The gigantic dragon kicked some demon pieces out of the way and settled down, his tattered ice-white hide reflecting the fiery sunset, edged with pale silver. "Red?"
Red saluted sloppily, "demon killing finished my lord. Twelve arch demons, sixty alpha demons, two hundred betas and eight hundred of those skinny little wingless things. Eight of ours dead. I left Kim to look after the injured and the remains, figured we ought to drop by and see what was going on. I told her to get everyone off the island as quickly as possible. It might collapse into the ocean, if we're lucky." He shared a bright grin with the rest of his team.
Tristan chuckled, the deep dragon chuckle making the ground vibrate. "I imagine you've made sure that island will be gone in a few hours. Very well. The demon bodies will all need to be removed to prevent the muggles finding them."
"Done." Red said, getting up, his team leapt up to follow, all of them smiling. Sharahak (and everyone else) watched in confusion as the happy vampires vanished.
"I must remember not to leave any of them stuck on a barren island for two months at any time for the next century." Tristan chuckled again. "Cora? How is Houston?" He turned to one of the vampires who had just appeared.
"Everyone injured is back at the fortress." The short vampire with gold rank symbols on her shoulders reported.
"We've informed the muggles that it was a series of gas line explosions that set off some old oil drums full of chemicals which ignited a minor chemical storage facility which blew up a gas station…Mariel has the full report out to the news people. I'm afraid the devastation was massive and impossible to hide. It will be all over their news all over the world today. We're thinking about calling it arson…actually I think Stocklir has decided it would be best to let all the muggles think today's destruction was deliberate, they won't suspect anything unusual about that."
Tristan nodded and Cora continued. "There were thirty-four arch demons, six thousand eight hundred un-winged ones, two thousand betas and four hundred and fifty alphas. It was a lot to hide in a single city so we blew things up early to make the muggles evacuate, then set off all of the illusions, which worked perfectly as planned. The Illusionists Guild did good work, so did the local magical people."
"Casualties?" Tristan asked.
"Seventy-seven muggles died but we managed to knock the others out and toss them away – they think the explosion sent them flying. Two hundred and forty-one local magical humans died, plus thirty-one aurors dead, three veela, nineteen local vampires…and none of ours." Cora finished with some amount of smugness. "We haven't finished counting the demon bodies because we just had to remove them all as quickly as possible. We burned everything, even the soil, to remove any blood remains the muggles might pick up and soaked everything in the chemicals one might find in old oil drums under a building, and then tossed a match in. Mariel did a good job, the muggles will never catch on and with everything such a mess of chemicals they'll never try to look too hard. The muggle bodies were conveniently burned to a powder so no interest in the injuries."
"Well done," Tristan said, "that sounds excellent. Take your division home and make sure they all have their injuries healed." Core bowed, smiling at the compliments, and signaled the six with her, they all teleported away. Tristan turned back to the four hundred vampires around him. "Gabriel?"
Gabriel, a very tall broad shouldered vampire who had been born just over two thousand years previously under another name and as the son of an Iranian merchant, gave a short bow, right fist over his heart. "Forty-six arch demons killed my lord. There were also three thousand seven hundred beta demons, eight thousand eight hundred twenty of those un-winged ones, and five hundred alphas. Nineteen square kilometers were scorched to bedrock during the fight and about a hundred muggles killed. The South African aurors lost forty-nine of theirs, ninety-two witches and wizards, eighteen lion fae, seven cheetah fae, sixty-two local vampires died along with six of ours." Gabriel said the last with obvious anguish.
Tristan just nodded, some casualties had been expected. "That was very well done then Gabriel. Please take your warriors home. Kihan is handling the clean up."
"My lord," Gabriel bowed again and vanished. Tristan turned to a tall vampire of mixed asian ancestry. "Hitoro, report."
Hitoro had had a rather unfortunate draw, as he had been the most senior vampire fighting with his master, meaning that Tristan had seen how he had commanded his warriors directly. Though really whether or not this was unfortunate was debatable since Tristan could just check his servant's minds for how they had fought. But Tristan respected restraint more than almost anything else. So he would ask Hitoro for a full report and probably not check anything unless something bothered him unusually. Hitoro had served his master with complete devotion for as long as Gabriel had, just about two thousand years, and had long become completely comfortable with his master and faced all sorts of foes at his side…but this was unusual. And so the ancient vampire was edgy and wondering what his Master had thought of his warriors' performance.
"The injured have been removed, eleven of us dead." Tristan had sent only his own vampires out to fight at this, the portal he suspected would produce the most arch demons. In that his guess had been correct, for now. They were not far outside Beijing, and while the locals had been upset at being cut out they had not protested too much. Tristan had let them handle the illusions and distractions for the muggles. "Nine thousand six hundred of those un-winged demons –"
"-order three beta demons." Sharahak said softly. "Of all the sets. Though it doesn't matter much."
"Nine thousand six hundred of them, five thousand one hundred…order 2 beta demons?" Sharahak nodded, those were the betas with wings, such as himself. "And eight hundred forty alpha demons." Hitoro finished.
"Unless I missed some there were ninety-two arch demons." Tristan said. The worst of his injuries healed over, leaving a tapestry of hard rippling jagged scars scattered over him head to toe. He returned to his vampire form at once. He was tired; the arch demons had been every bit as difficult as he had thought they would be...be not as dangerous as he had feared they might be. Knowing that he could handle sixty or more with just his animagus and the usual magics he trained in for such battles was reassuring; he had not had to resort to anything too exotic. This was very advantageous, it meant that he didn't have to overextend himself in this first fight and the vast majority of what he could do, when necessary, was still a secret. Not having to utilize any of his more extravagantly destructive combat magics made the injuries taken in fighting as a dragon worthwhile. "Mulima will be arriving shortly to help the locals clean this up and hide it from the muggles. She has decided to set off several sizeable bombs to account for the destruction. I will handle the portal removal. Hitoro take everyone home and make sure everyone is healed and gets some rest." Tristan glanced around at his warriors, a tiny smile and a hint of fondness beginning to appear in his cold silver eyes. "You've earned it. Well done everyone."
As the vampires around them bowed and vanished, teleporting away, Tristan turned to Sharahak. "Go home and get some rest. My linguistics experts are going to need your help interrogating that." He tilted his head to the trembling caged demon on the ground. It was mostly alive, sort of, wrapped into its own armor and helpless.
"This war is just starting. There are sixty ongoing attacks, more portals opening all the time. I will rest when there is time." He had several more regiments waiting for orders to attack, and some of his better vampires were selecting locations where they could be the most useful. His day was far from over and he would likely be fighting for the twenty-four hours straight without stop, especially if more arch demons turned up. Tristan smiled gently, "no need to be concerned, I've been storing magical energy for centuries for just such an emergency."
Sharahak shook his head, completely unsurprised and as always just a little awed. Folding his blood encrusted wings he concentrated on the healer's wing of the fortress he was located in and teleported.
Two hours after releasing the portal Rahkesh was back at Akren, lying on a bed in their hospital and watching dark grey/red liquid drip out of the wound just above his right knee. His broken rib and collarbone had healed quickly but one of the demon sorcerers had given him a nasty curse and bite. The potions the healers had injected him with had been magically drawn directly to the wound and were slowly pushing the liquefied magic and venom out. The potions would then also drain out, to be replaced with healing potions. It wasn't exactly painful but wasn't comfortable either.
Glaring at a sniggering Daray Rahkesh folded his cards and put them aside. Eighteen rounds in a row and Daray had won every single one of them. His vampire friend's decision to teach Rahkesh to play poker was not going well. Sprawled sideways on the bed next to Rahkesh's Daray giggled and dropped his own cards, three kings. The vampire had bloody gashes on his left lower thigh and a magical wound on his chest oozing bright orange puss. The magical wound was the disturbing one, Sharahak didn't recognize the magic at all and neither did anyone else. Daray was showing some signs of resistance, probably due to being part demon himself, and the pain was being countered by morphine. Rahkesh thought the healers might have overdone the drugs a little; Daray wasn't exactly high as a kite, but he certainly wasn't normal, normal Daray didn't giggle. And he certainly didn't snigger through his nose like a drunk llama.
Matolo limped over carrying a chair and sat down beside them. He was followed by Ally, Rianae, and Haedil. The Amadan fae had a long bloody gash running from above his left eye halfway down his cheek and his left arm in a sling. Rianae was regrowing three teeth and her right hand had most of the flesh ripped off while a poisoned slice ran from her right shoulder to her tailbone. Ally had a deep purple bruise on her left bicep and a magical curse had cracked a section of her right kneecap, the damage had been fully repaired leaving only some interesting spiraling scars.
"I would congratulate you on the promotion, but the circumstances don't seem very happy." Ally said to Matolo. The brown haired werewolf shrugged and winced, his right shoulder socket had been just about pulverized. Xayi, the former alpha of his pack, had been killed at some point with a flattened skull. This left Matolo as the apparent alpha of one of Akren's werewolf packs. Rahkesh doubted it would last. Matolo was excellent at being second in command, but he wasn't truly a leader.
"How's Silas?" Rahkesh asked Rianae, as she was the one who had helped Daray drag an unconscious Silas back to Akren. He would have asked Daray, but the vampire was being giggly-twitchy and Rahkesh didn't want him running off to check on Silas…or dye his green while he was still unconscious.
"Out cold. One skull fracture but otherwise he's okay. Nuri's got a torn ear and was raising all sorts of hell until the Headmistress's snow leopard turned up and smacked him." Rianae said, trying to get her shredded hair back into a braid. Daray snickered hysterically and choked on the blood he was drinking.
"Ignore him. The healers misjudged the morphine dose." Rahkesh explained. "I've been keeping him from doing anything too stupid."
"This explains a lot." Ally muttered. "I could hear him laughing earlier from the opposite end of the building, sounded like a hyena under a giggling charm. I'm going to head down to the student's lounge off the dining hall. Someone's got a few radios set up to various stations reporting on the battles. They need help recording and making sense of all the reports they're getting."
"I'll be down in a few hours to help." Rahkesh volunteered. The radios had nothing to do with radio waves, they transmitted and received magical signals, but somehow the name radio had gotten stuck on at some point.
"No you won't." One of the healers snapped from right behind Rahkesh's bed. Rahkesh managed not to jump, barely. "You're going to sleep as soon as that wound is closed up. You'll be exhausted from the healing potions."
"How long until this is done?" Rahkesh asked.
"Three, maybe four hours." The healer, Professor Faras, estimated. The short elderly woman scowled at him from under curly white bangs, "no running off on some bizarre and dangerous stunt. As soon as you leave here you're going to sleep."
"Gee Rahkesh, it's almost like she knows you." Daray snickered as the Professor went to look after another student who'd had both lungs crushed.
Sygra flew down in wyvern form and transformed just above the outside windowsill. Landing on the tiny ledge she then slipped through the rock wall and into the room, dropping down to land on Rahkesh's pillow. Rahkesh often forgot about Sygra's seldom used ability to pass through solid objects. She didn't like using it since it was uncomfortable, but there were very few walls Sygra couldn't get through when she wished to.
How are your injuries? Rahkesh asked. He had healed Sygra and she had gone out flying to be sure everything felt okay and none of the scars hindered her movement too much. Sygra had been lucky; all of her injuries had been from the demon's claws and fangs. Poisoned, but not magical and not lethal.
Fine. The scars ache a little but I suppose that will take time to heal. Sygra said, coiling up on his pillow and going to sleep instantly.
Justin appeared in the doorway and sat down on the edge of Rahkesh's bed. "Claire's dead, so is Wave."
"Three? I had thought it would be worse," Rianae said, stroking the thick bandage around Justin calf muscle where a demon had stuck its tail spike through his leg.
"I think it was the new armored clothing." Justin sighed.
"Does anyone know yet why the demons attacked out in the middle of nowhere rather than in the cities?" Rahkesh asked.
Justin grinned tiredly, "yes, the muggles stopped them."
"They did what?" Daray asked incredulously.
"The muggles stopped them." Justin explained, grinning.
"How?" Rianae asked.
"It would be a bit hard to hide a massive cavern filled with a golden portal in a muggle city." Justin explained. "They'd find it no matter how many muggle repelling spells were on it. Those things can't be hidden very well, you can't shrink them or alter them in any way or they won't work. So the muggles started finding portals and kept melting them down for the gold. Only with some of the older ones if you melt them they blow up and transform into a gaseous thing that dissipates. The ones the muggles didn't manage to melt down either got blown up or removed. Except for the ones the muggles accidentally crushed or collapsed when they were building underground. Most of the portals in the cities when magical people live must have been located in muggle-owned areas. They've all been gone for decades."
"Who figured this out?" Rahkesh asked as Daray collapsed laughing across both their beds.
"Holly Jemi – one of Stocklir's tactics people, and Julius Nandan, who's the second in command vampire over in Paris." Justin said. Rahkesh made a mental note to meet Julius at some point; he was a parseltongue and had supported Rahkesh's decision to attack the Master of Vienna when that vampire had attempted to take some of the young parseltongues Voldemort had collected.
"So the muggles took care of the demon's attack plan for us?"
"Unfortunately the muggles didn't get to all of them." Justin said softly.
"Where?" Haedil asked.
"Houston, Beijing, Madrid, Prague, Graz, Luxor, Leningrad, Salvador…those were the major cities hit. The more remote locations were scattered, several in entirely magical communities, the small ones that are everywhere they can hide. The details were very sketchy but there were five locations in Russia, two in Greece, one in Italy, two in France, one in Poland…half a dozen in Brazil, three in Chile, two in Jordan, one in a major magical community in Syria, two in Uzbekistan, two in Egypt, two in Japan, one in Vietnam, one on some unnamed little island in Indonesia, and one that attempted to open in Israel but somehow malfunctioned and self destructed, took a half dozen aurors with it."
"Wonder how they bungled that?" Rianae muttered. Justin shrugged and continued.
"There were just over a hundred portals opened today, those are just the ones where the fighting is mostly over and the body counting has started." Justin closed his eyes and rested his head on Rianae's shoulder. "The muggles might have gotten a lot of the portals but the demons haven't let that deter them. There was a second wave an hour after the first, different portals in very different locations, those were mostly in cities. Fortunately we were mostly prepared for that." Justin said, opening his eyes again he frowned at them, troubled, "when I was down in the radio center ten minutes ago they were guessing there might be twenty thousand magical beings dead."
As the most prominent of the world parselmouths (please correct me if this is not the case) I thought you would be the best person to approach with this matter. Given the unique gifts of your kind it has been decided that any parselmouths with fully intact healing abilities will be given priority placing in one of the shelters. I had hoped to have more time to search for and identify the parselmouths in my country but, with today's invasion, we are out of time. I do not know if you keep any lists of living parselmouths, but if you know of any who are not already secured by their home nations please refer them to me, I have a dozen places reserved in our largest shelter.
Chair of the Committee for Refugee Aid
United States of America
Rahkesh read the letter twice. The courier, an Akren graduate and a second tier Threadmage, had knocked on his door an hour after dawn. Rahkesh had been meditating, identifying what injuries still remained after a nights rest and many healing potions.
The children he had rescued from Voldemort were with Mr. Ramdas in India. The Indian government had given them all places in their most secure shelter. Rahkesh thought perhaps he should have been a little disturbed at the special preference given them, but he knew this was just good tactics. The eldest of those children was ten, in four or five years, especially with training, he would be an asset in healing. The other children would be extremely useful as well, eventually. If they were going to be fighting a war then parselmouth healers would be a great help. No one knew their limits, but with so many of the greatest healers having been parselmouths (often secretly or unknowingly) it was not too much to expect that those children would come in very useful. Rahkesh trusted Mr. Ramdas to ensure that they were treated well, and who would want to make a healer angry anyway?
He did know of a few other parselmouths. Minister Yi's young son Kwan was in a shelter. Julius Nandan of Paris was not an intact parselmouth and in any case he was at his creator's side leading France's vampires. Fayina, a vampire who owned a business that produced and sold blood-based drinks for vampires, had drawn a spot in one of the shelters. Kimberly Masi, another vampire whose abilities were not intact, was currently working for Vladimir Konovalov and as a guard she was a trained fighter and not about to go into hiding. Vinius Corwellius was a vampire whose gift may or may not be intact and whose only response when Rahkesh had contacted him about his book had been a reply that he didn't like to "talk to anyone" or "write anything down" or "meet people" or "go anywhere" and would Rahkesh please never contact him again? Rahkesh had no idea where he lived or who he really was, and none of his vampire friends had ever heard the name. Namach had told Rahkesh about him, but even Namach had never met him, had no idea where he lived, and had only heard of his existence through one other vampire five hundred years previously. Whoever Corwellius was he didn't socialize much and Rahkesh figured contacting him was probably a waste of time.
"Did Ms. Williams ask you to take back any reply or should I owl her?" Rahkesh asked. The Threadmage was a middle aged woman with graying red hair, the tiniest nose Rahkesh had ever seen, and pale hazel eyes. She had millions of long bits of string at the hem of everything she wore, oddly enough it looked good on her. It would be odd to have a Threadmage playing courier, an Akren graduate no less, but Kara was someone Rahkesh knew a lot about through Rianae; Kara was an oddity in that she was amazingly skilled at magical transportation and even better at working defensive threadmagic into clothing, but was singularly inept at anything to do with fighting or healing. And she lived in the US. With the demons running around her ability to hop all over the world in seconds made her highly valuable.
"I'll take back anything you have. I'm going back anyway to say goodbye to my mother, she's a muggle."
"I wish I had something for you to take back." Rahkesh said truthfully.
"You don't know any other parselmouths?" Kara looked a bit disbelieving.
"I know several, the human ones are already safe, the vampires are either safe, off fighting, or completely out of contact. And their abilities never seem to be intact anyway. I'm sorry, I too wish there had been more time to look for parselmouths. But please tell Ms. Williams that we are very, very rare. Having two born each century would be interesting, the large number of parselmouth children in existence right now is already something that has never occurred before, that I know of, and I am already very concerned about our sudden abundance and how it came to be. Finding more of us would probably be a very bad thing indeed."
After Kara left Rahkesh got up and limped over to his balcony. He was exhausted. He might have an awful lot of magic energy, but he wasn't old enough yet to have built up any real endurance. His fight the day before had used most of what he had and it would take time to recover. Not for the first time Rahkesh wished he'd had a few years more training, not just for the knowledge and practice, but for the magical endurance as well. As it was his usefulness in a long drawn out conflict was limited by how long he could fight for. Going all out for a day would require a few days of recovery, and Rahkesh hated feeling so helpless and worthless.
"How's your knee?"
Rahkesh didn't even startle this time. He had become very accustomed to Daray's sudden appearances in his rooms. How the vampire did it was a mystery, but Rahkesh had just about given up trying to figure it out.
"It aches. How's your chest?" Rahkesh asked, turning around. Daray's chest, he saw, was still covered in white bandages. Lounging across Rahkesh's couch in soft black silk pants, no shoes, and a dark red silk shirt that hung unbuttoned around the thick bandages the vampire did not appear to be in any pain.
"I can't feel anything through the numbing potions." Daray said. "My animagus has finally calmed down too, maybe it's the numbing potions...or-"
"-or the fighting." Rahkesh finished with a wry grin that Daray returned. Both of their animagus forms were…intense. Having a part of you hell bent on combat could be a bit difficult. It was a problem he and Daray shared and frequently dealt with by flying up and down the Akren mountains as animagi.
Satan flew in from the balcony and dropped onto Daray's shoulder. The vampire bat leaned down and sniffed at the bandages around Daray's chest. Making a very distressed low whine the bat turned around and chirped at Daray. "Hush you, that's just the venom draining out." Daray told his familiar. "He gets all distressed when I'm injured" he told Rahkesh, picking Satan up and petting him soothingly.
"Was he out there with us?"
"Yep, got four of those betas, the ones without wings." Daray said proudly. "Pretty darn good considering he can't transform into his larger form right now."
"He got into a spat with a young harpy when I went home to help prepare the family fortress." Daray explained, "he won't be able to transform until the scars on his eye ridges heal."
"A young one. I think it wanted to eat him. Its parents apologized…though they shouldn't have bothered since Satan put their little brat in the hospital." Daray was very, very proud of his familiar. Rahkesh rolled his eyes. Satan didn't look particularly threatening most of the time, but the bat was magical and could do stuff that Daray still hadn't told Rahkesh about.
"Have you been to the communications center?" Rahkesh asked.
"I stopped in there an hour ago. There have been some good reports. Namach and his warriors did a heck of job. World wide there's been two hundred arch demons reported, Namach and has warriors got one hundred and eighty-four of them plus thirty-eight thousand and something other assorted demons. That army we ran into up in Canada turned out to be nine and half thousand of those ones without wings and six hundred alphas. Strange that there were no betas like Sharahak there."
"Who got to count the bodies?" Rahkesh asked, that must have been extremely unpleasant.
"The first year students." Daray chuckled.
"Didn't Sharahak say the demon army has millions?" Rahkesh asked.
"They do. But it doesn't matter if they can't move them. This first wave was plenty, but they've also destroyed a lot of portals. Vladimir Konovalov is reporting in some ninety thousand beta demons of various types appearing in several locations in Russia. Fortunately his vampires are fairly militaristic and very well trained. They ought to be, they've been exterminating muggle vampires by the thousand for the past year. Vladimir was going to kill off all the young magical vampires because there were too many, but someone on his staff suggested drafting them all to his army instead. Anyone who is still alive when we get to this new world might be allowed to live. And so Vladimir has no shortage of not-so-well-trained fighters. The demons only had him outnumbered nine to one."
"That's odd, I had heard he had just killed all the young magical ones."
"Deliberate misinformation? I would not be surprised, we are talking about a vampire who learned to diabolical from Namach. Oh and the Indian vampires did the same thing; rounded up all the excess young magical ones and gave them the option of fighting and maybe living, or dying right then and there. Not surprisingly they all chose to fight."
"Rianae says that just about all the shelters are full and in lockdown." Rahkesh said, he had heard from her very early that morning after her mother had finished making sure that all the fae tribes and vampire armies knew each others communications codes properly.
"They should be. There're still new portals opening and more demons arriving. The carnage has been immense. The estimate of the death toll keeps going up. There're two people over at the MLFC keeping track, or trying to. They're at forty thousand dead as of a few hours ago and the number just keeps getting bigger."
"And here we are not doing a damn thing about it." Rahkesh muttered. He hated being useless. There were magical beings under attack and dying all over the world and here he was sitting around waiting to recover enough to be able to fight again.
"Can't be out there all the time, that's why everyone's working in teams. About a quarter of the alumni are out fighting right now. In a few days we'll be back and whoever gets injured today will be recovering." Daray pointed out.
"I know that." Rahkesh snapped, "it's just knowing that there are a lot of places that were not well prepared and the majority didn't get a spot in one of the shelters and can't hold out long at all once the demons find them."
"Which is why every large population center was shut down as soon as the attack began. With everyone scattered it'll be harder to find all the little groups."
"Except for the ones with children." Rahkesh reminded him. Kids couldn't help but give off enough magic to be located, assuming the demons' new hunting magics were as good as they thought they were.
"The Amadan have been killing their young." Daray told him, "everyone under a certain age has been killed so everyone else could escape without leaving the demons any new slaves."
"They killed their own children?" Rahkesh was horrified.
Daray wasn't, "necessity Rahkesh. Amadan children give off more magic than those of any other sentient magical life form. They couldn't hide. They couldn't fill the shelters with just kids, who would raise them and train them? Even at one adult for every ten children there wouldn't be enough adults to look after all of them, and, far more important really, the magical knowledge would be lost with all the adults who died. Writing stuff down isn't the best way to teach it, especially with Amadan, and so the next generation would probably not be as able fighters as those alive right now. They couldn't just abandon the kids either, then the demons would catch them and they'd wind up as slaves supporting demon society. What other solution is there?"
None, really. There wasn't any other solution. Intellectually Rahkesh knew that. The Amadan were choosing to keep the greatest number alive rather than die fighting a battle they couldn't win. It still seemed awfully cold, and some part of him thought it just plain wrong. But Rahkesh suppressed that part, the Amadan could have died fighting for their children, and the children would still wind up as slaves after the adults were dead. There was no possibility of keeping their children alive long enough for the new world to be ready. But without the youngest everyone else had a good chance at evading capture long enough for some of them to make it.
"I wonder when everyone else will have to make that choice?" Rahkesh wondered aloud. All magical children of every species gave off magic. It couldn't be reliably hidden long term or suppressed. Eventually, if the new world wasn't ready soon enough, every species was going to have to face the same choice: die fighting and have the children enslaved anyway, let the children be enslaved knowing that there was no hope of rescue and that this happening would prop up demon society to the detriment of all future generations, or kill their own offspring and keep the adults to fight and to eventually rebuild.
"Soon I should think." Daray didn't seem terribly concerned. "But I suspect a lot of people won't think of it on their own. And they won't like it. People get irrational about their children."
Rahkesh decided that he didn't feel like arguing about whether or not being upset at the idea of killing your children was irrational or not. Under the circumstances being upset was not irrational, but any of the options other than murder were irrational. It wasn't a choice he liked. It wasn't a choice at all, and just because it made sense and there was no other way didn't mean that everyone would do it. He had a suspicion that the demons were going to wind up with a great many child slaves, after their parents uselessly died trying to protect them. And the new world, when it was ready, was going to have a very small population indeed; far too many were going to die fighting for those who could not be saved.
"I should head over to the MLFC building. The team that was supposed to check on the new world ought to be back." Rahkesh thought aloud. "I have to be in Europe later today anyway, I'm going to a wyvern colony with Sygra to try to recruit them to help fight. It shouldn't be too hard, the demons would probably want to eat or enslave the, or both. Maybe I'll go ask how our new world is doing on my way to the colony."
"I asked one of our alumni, they're not back yet. We've got six of ours over there waiting for them. They're some of the elderly alumni who aren't able to do much else right now."
"They're still not back? Its been days!" Rahkesh was alarmed. All the team was supposed to do was to get to the new world, check to see if it existed, and then get back. They weren't supposed to do anything else, just make sure the air was breathable. If everything else had failed and most of the life forms that should have been there didn't exist it didn't matter, there was no where else to go, and so the team had just be responsible for making sure it was there.
"Maybe they got stuck." Daray suggested. "Just because a way to travel between worlds was set up thousands of years ago doesn't mean it still works both ways."
"Wonderful. We're going to wind up sending a search and rescue team to retrieve the reconnaissance team." Rahkesh groaned.
I will probably be without internet access until late November. I will have electricity most of the time and will be writing whenever I happen to be able to use my computer, but I expect to not be able to post anything for several months. This long chapter is going to have to do until then. I'm very sorry but this is what happens when your work takes you away from civilization for months at a time. If I can post the next chapter sooner be sure that I will.
Because I may only have temporary internet access to post my next chapter I will not be sending out another email to everyone who was on the list to know when this was posted. If you want an email update you can make an account with this website and sign up for an alert whenever I update.